Businesses that sell to other businesses (B2B) typically have much longer sales cycles than companies that sell to consumers (B2C). The products and services that are sold are usually much higher in cost, which requires more hand-holding during the sales process. Salespeople are invaluable to B2B companies because they nurture relationships throughout the sales process. B2B companies, even when they do use social media, tend to overlook it as a relationship builder and a lead generation channel.
B2B Relationships Online Matter Too
If you’re building relationships with a customer in-person, and they’re online, that’s another opportunity to listen to their concerns, learn about their needs and provide value to the relationship. If you’re also online and your customers are connected to you and you’re not listening and responding, that can impact in-person relationships as well. In lead generation, referrals are often the best source, and social networking provides an opportunity to build relationships with those in your customers’ networks.
Your Customer’s Customers Are Your Customers
In B2B relationships, your customer also has customers. Social networking provides an opportunity to connect directly to your customer’s customers. This will help you understand your customer’s needs and wants and can help you provide them with valuable information for their own marketing and sales. Needs often will trickle up the sales channel, and social networking can give you advanced notice of benefits and features you need to build into your own products. In some sales channels, knowing when your customer’s customers are looking for a product can generate a lead for you that a customer may need a product or service from you.
Building B2B Brand Preference
Because B2B is built on relationships and trust, brand preference can be a strong driver of sales. Using social networking can help you build your brand’s reputation by helping your customers with questions and problems, as well as their customers. Increasing your reputation will help generate referrals.
Provide B2B Lead Generation Opportunities
One of the most difficult aspects of lead generation is knowing when a customer or potential customer is interested in your products. It’s obvious when they call or use a contact form, but there often is interest well before those touchpoints. Providing lead generation opportunities online and with social networking can help you tap into those who are earlier in the sales cycle, allowing you to provide valuable information to move them closer to a sale. The easiest way to provide these opportunities is to build content that is valuable (hint: lose the marketing speak and opt for benefits and value instead) for those considering a sale and providing it through social channels, not only by posting on your online profiles, but by offering it directly to those who seem to have a question.
Closing the Sale
Just like in-person sales and marketing in B2B, social networking for B2B lead generation requires time and patience. It means listening and responding to customers in a timely manner. If social networking is treated as an extension of in-person networking, it can be an extremely valuable lead generation tool for B2B companies.
How do you use social networking for B2B lead generation?